DayZ has a long history, being born as a mod for Arma 2, and later being made into a standalone game that would remain in early access for years. It received a PS4 release in 2019; I bought it soon after and have put a large amount of time into it since. That is not to say I am any good at it, everyone else is though. People tend to love it or hate it, or both, because of how difficult it can be. So, if you like pain, go out and buy this game immediately; if you enjoy reading about other people’s pain, please continue below.
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The world of DayZ has succumb to a plague that has claimed everyone alive, sparing only a few. You awake on a beach with only a glow stick, a bit of food, and some bandages. From this point onward the story is entirely determined by the player. There are no objectives, no passive NPCs, no boundaries, and no rules. The way you decide to interact with others is on you and, depending on whom you are interacting with, you may also suffer due consequences. Suffering is guaranteed however, regardless of your moral compass, as you will need all the essentials of life in a land devoid of them. You will find that everything to be had in Chernarus is earned with blood, sweat, and combat logging.
Before you play this game there are some harsh truths I should bestow upon you. Firstly, when you die you are done; next character, one ride per ticket. You can then spawn again at the beach to do it all again. You can create a character in the menu before loading onto a server. If you have no character on that server, you will spawn on the beach anew. Second, the servers wipe every so often, so you want to make peace with any progress you have, as you are bound to lose it. Lastly, you are going to lose a thousand times before you finally get what you are after. If you can handle these few things, then you will go far in Chernarus.
Sit down son, I need to talk to you. Life is hard, but surviving in this game is really, really hard. DayZ is notorious for putting as many obstacles as possible between you and anything resembling success. Ask anyone at a spawn point what they think of the experience; often they will swear at you before dramatically logging out. This is understandable as most things in this game will hurt you.
Before leaving the early game areas you will need food, fluids, and a weapon if you are lucky enough. Not only that, but you will also need knowledge of the area and keen senses to avoid the dead. Yup it is zombies once more, and not the way most like them; these undead are as simple as they could be. First, they see/hear you, they then pursue you endlessly, finally they awkwardly squat like apes as they swing wildly at you. It gets old fast. They just do not change at all or contribute much to the experience. I wish I could say more about something that should be key in a survival game, but all I really want from the zombies is for them to be replaced with something better.
Aside from the gangrene gorillas sculking around, worrying also is actual gangrene. Yes, medical ailments are plentiful in DayZ; and dangerous, too. You can get a cold from exposure, blood poisoning from open wounds, cholera from spoiled food or water; you can also receive multiple open wounds at once and break your legs. These features, though brutal, are very cool. There is nothing more exhilarating than being shot in the leg, crawling to safety, then patching your wounds, and using an IV drip to account for lost blood. For every sickness there is a treatment as well; splints for broken legs, charcoal tablets for food poisoning, epinephrine for the unconscious. The health system in this game is dense and more complex than any game on console that I have seen.
Along with zombies two stepping everywhere are animals, though less frequent. There are domestic animals such as pigs, chickens, and cows; there are also wild animals like deer, bears, and wolves. All these animals can be hunted, but only the bears and wolves will hunt you back. These encounters are fun and terrifying. The bears are powerful enough to strike you unconscious with a few blows and require a powerful bullet to penetrate its thick hide; they are not to be ignored.
Player versus player combat is the star of the show; I am sure most would agree. It is as immersive as Arma, if not more. Every person you encounter is guaranteed to be a player; this paired with absolute freedom creates tension that could suffocate you. Every valuable experience in DayZ is likely a stressful one, involving two or more agitated players.
The weapons of DayZ are crafted after real life counterparts, such as the AKM, M4A1, Desert Eagle, and so on. They can be in different conditions as well ranging from ruined to pristine. Most weapon accessories will be found separate from the weapon, including scopes and magazines, unless the magazine or scope is built into the firearm. This means you are likely to find a weapon missing crucial parts, but if you find ammo for it you can still chamber a single round to fire. To cycle the chamber of a firearm you must manually do so and to refill a magazine requires you do the same. These details create the experience. Is someone following you? Turn around and shoot them; Uh oh, looks like you did not chamber a bullet. Back to the beach.
There is so much to the combat of this game that I could not begin to explain it all, however I will tell you a story that may do the job. I was exploring a military outpost with a friend, in search of better equipment. I told this friend that he should not stand still for too long as we had heard gunfire nearby and it was risky. He was promptly shot in the head from afar. I ran into a nearby building; I checked the window and saw three players running down a hill in my direction. I waited where I was with my .308 rifle. One of the attackers entered the room; I then shot and killed him. Another tried peeking around the door frame only to meet the same fate. I thought I might escape if I ran, so I bolted out the door and met with the final assailant. He peppered me with his AK, then followed his allies to the grave. I was mortally wounded. I ran to a nearby shed to lick my wounds and attempt to recover. I had lost far too much blood, though, and began to drift in and out of consciousness, dropping my weapon each time I fainted. Eventually more players showed up, possibly the few I had just killed, and started searching the area. I managed to kill one as he opens the shed I was in. His friend was no fool, however, opting instead to fire through the walls, finally killing my character. After this experience I grew quite addicted to this game’s harsh yet rewarding combat.
Traveling the maps of this game is just as difficult as everything else. There is no pause screen map to address, so you either know where you are, or you do not. You can find a paper map in-game that is beyond useful; I chose to learn to navigate with a compass and the occasional road sign. This is a real-world skill to be learned; I was amazed by this. There is also a north star at night, and the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. You certainly have options for finding your way; you will have to choose one as the map is over 200 square kilometers (about twice the area of Manhattan).
Something I have trouble accepting is the lack of effort put into the loot spawn system. Stuff just spawns on the ground; It is noticeably lazy and uninspired. Of course, the spawns are area specific, meaning hospitals spawn medicines, houses spawn civilian items, etc. This makes sense but houses full of useless cabinets and bland textures do not really please the eye.
Graphics and Sound
Looks are not this game’s strongest feature. Most textures are basic up close, though from a distance they come together well enough. The trees and shrubs are dense and green enough to make camouflage worth considering. This game goes for realism, so the color palette is basic. There is plenty of green, though overall everything seems a bit grey.
All the appropriate noises are where they belong: birds in the woods, crickets in the dark, guns go boom. Guns are particularly loud, what with gunpowder and all. If you have a good ear, you can pick out different weapons and distances by sound alone. Enemy footsteps, both player and zombie, are also loud enough to detect, though they do not seem to be reliable. Zombie’s scream in a disturbing fashion, possibly the only thing they do well.
I do not remember playing DayZ without experiencing some type of bug. Aside from glitches in textures there is a bug always tied to movement; walking from any creature or player will cause a clicking sound that can be heard from far away. One of the most annoying and persistent bugs is one that affects items in your inventory, showing that they are there when they are not. These bugs come and go but are bound to show up eventually, even with a wired internet connection.
This game has been referred to as a great idea with a bad execution, that sums it up well. Though I have had a wonderful time with DayZ’s PvP it is just far too neglected altogether to be a worthwhile experience. Bohemia Interactive does not seem aware of this however as the game is priced at 49.99 on the PS store; this has been its price since release. After nearly a thousand hours playing this conflicting game, I have finally given it up, most likely for good. I would recommend it to any fan of mil-sim or immersive shooters if you see it on sale. If you are more of a casual gamer, please avoid DayZ for your sanity’s sake.
- Next level combat
- Walking simulator